Thursday, August 29, 2013

Accolades, Contests, and Awards - Oh My!

This has been an exciting year—and an exciting summer. Not only did sales of my All the King's Men Series take off in January like a horse out of the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby, but three of my AKM books won some awards and recognition that make me a proud momma.

Rise of the Fallen, book one in the series earned the following distinctions:

  • Gold medalist in the 2012 eLit Awards in Erotic Fiction
  • USA Today Recommended Read
  • GraveTells Runner Up for Readers Choice Favorite Story - January 2013
  • GraveTells Reviewer Top Pick for January 2013
  • Finalist in Parajunkee's Best Adult Book 2012

Heart of the Warrior, book two in the series, and—surprisingly—the most popular book in the series also earned a nice honor, coming in second to Rise of the Fallen in the Erotic Fiction category to earn the silver medal in the eLit Awards...and that's pretty awesome since HOTW is a male/male romance, which don't usually fare well in contests geared more toward male/female romances.

The big surprise was Micah's Calling, which is book three in the series, as well as a novella that continues Micah's, Sam's, and Trace's story from Rise of the Fallen. Micah's Calling earned the followed award:
  • Silver Medalist in the 2013 IPPYs for Best Romance/Erotica E-Book
The IPPYs are like the Grammy Awards for Independent Publishing, so to win an IPPY is an amazing honor! I'm so proud of my smexy vampires and their hot stories. 

Rebel Obsession, book four in the series, was released in January, and I plan on entering it into at least one contest, maybe two, but the reviews for RO have been some of the best in the series so far, which speaks volumes for how fans have enjoyed Io's story. We'll see if that translates into another win to keep the streak alive. 

Next up is Return of the Assassin, which is due out at the end of October. Even though ROTA isn't yet published, it already earned its first accolade. I found out Monday night that it's a finalist in the paranormal category for the RWA Heart of the West contest, which is hosted by the Utah chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This is huge, in my opinion. RWA is the epitome of romance writing, and to be a finalist in a chapter contest is an accomplishment in and of itself. The winners for all categories will be notified in mid-October, but even if I don't win, it's an honor to be a finalist, and the distinction has put my work in front of a literary agency. RWA contests are excellent ways to get in front of industry professionals. 

Now it's time to set my sites on the next goals: Another IPPY, another eLit Award, and an RWA Golden Heart. Maybe even a RITA. As I've said before, you've gotta have a goal. :) Those are mine.

If you're a fan of AKM, come and join my AKM readers group on Facebook for updates and fun chats. Also look up my fan page

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Continuing Education For Authors

Over the weekend, I submitted a piece for a writing book. I included my thoughts, opinions, and advice on such topics as writers block, pantsing vs. plotting, and editing, as well as on staying educated about this fabulous profession known as making up stories for a living.

Writing, as with any job, requires that authors stay up to date on styles, trends, and technology, and that they constantly work to improve their technique and craft. To compare writing to other professions: Architects don't graduate from college and never take another class, or never invest in industry journals and further education as a means to continue learning. Some professions even require a certain number of classroom hours every so many years for a professional to maintain accreditation or certification. Authors who want to maintain an edge need to continue their education, as well.

How? Writers can attend workshops, conventions, or take creative writing courses. I took two long-term writing courses at the Long Ridge Writers Group, one in writing for short stories, and one for writing novels. These two classes were invaluable as a means of learning what it takes to be a bona fide author. While they focus primarily on what it takes to get in print with a big publishing house vs. how to self-publish, I believe that writers must learn to walk before they run. And walking involves learning the industry and what it takes to get published the traditional way before running off to self-publish. Those who simply say, "I want to write and self-publish a book," but have no basis for what it takes to be traditionally published, miss a huge chunk of knowledge that can make their writing the best it can be. In short, just because writers can self-publish now and circumvent the traditional route doesn't mean they don't need to know how the industry works and how to write. Courses, classes, and workshops help fill that gap.

Another way to maintain a writing edge is to read books on craft. There are books on all facets of writing, including showing vs. telling, how to write a book in a month, how to build a series bible, how to edit, and how NOT to write a novel. Below are some of my favorite books on writing. Go through each and determine which would best suit where you are and what you need to learn right now. A couple of the books at the bottom of the list are stellar and have average ratings that float just under 5 stars on Amazon.

By no means is this list all-encompassing. I own each of the above books, but own many more that I left off the list. The point is, there are hundreds or even thousands of books on writing craft that you can buy to help you improve your writing. You can spend hours on Amazon going to the additional books they recommend when you pull up a new book to view.

When I read one of these books (or even just a chapter in one of these books), I often come away inspired or with tons of ideas. If you're stuck in your story, try picking up one of these books for a while, and watch the magic happen as your mind starts to come back to life. Soon, you won't be stuck, anymore, and you'll be writing like a pro again.

Happy Writing!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Passive Voice vs. Passive Verbs - There is a Difference

As a writer wanting to learn more about passive vs. active voice, it's pretty disheartening to buy a book that is supposed to address just that, only to find out the book has mistakenly identified weak verbs as passive voice. But that's exactly what's happened. Which set me on a mission to differentiate the following terms from one another:
  • Passive voice
  • Active voice
  • Passive verbs
  • Active verbs
First, let's clarify what passive voice is. Passive voice occurs when you shake up the subject-verb-object order of a sentence—the acted-upon is in the actor position, and the actor is in the acted-up position (if the actor is mentioned at all). [quoted from The Book on Writing by Paula LaRocque.] Examples:

Active voice: The boy hit the ball. (subject-verb-object)
Passive voice: The ball was hit by the boy. (object-verb-subject)
Passive voice: The ball was hit. (object-verb. No subject.)

Okay, pretty simple, right? Here's where the passive/weak line blurs. See that "be" verb, "was"? You might have learned "be" verbs as "linking verbs" in school: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been. These verbs are also known as passive verbs. Oh holy hell, right? Now we've got passive voice and passive verbs. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Many writers think that any time a passive verb is used, passive voice automatically results and should be rewritten into active voice. They have mistakenly been taught this concept, and they have mistakenly continued to teach it to others (me included), until massive amounts of writers now wrap themselves around trees in order to eliminate the word, "was" because they think it's passive voice, when all it really is is weak writing.

So, let's call passive verbs weak verbs and active verbs strong verbs. If you do that, you won't be as likely to confuse passive voice with simple weak verb usage. Here's the new and improved list of terms:
  • Passive voice
  • Active voice
  • Weak verbs
  • Strong verbs
Much better,right? Okay...onward we go.

Eliminating all "be" verbs is not only impossible, but silly. As I just pointed out, "be" verbs aren't always passive. Most of the time, they are just weak. And more often than you might think, weak verbs are acceptable, because sometimes you don't need a stronger verb. Sometimes you simply need to write, "I was sick," not "I succumbed to the flu," which would come off as too formal, depending on context. Let's look at some examples of active voice that is weak vs. active voice that is strong. Note the italics, which point out the weak or strong construction. Again, all the below sentences are written in active voice, despite the "be" verbs.

Active but weak: Micah was fit to be tied after being accused.
Active but strong: Micah fumed at the accusations.

Active but weak: Trace was ready to be flogged.
Active but strong: Trace sank to his knees, head bowed. The hair on his arms prickled, and he licked his lips. Any second, the strike of leather on his back would relieve the ache in his chest.

In the examples, weak verbs (not passive voice) were replaced by stronger verbs. The weak sentences were still written in active voice, but they suffered from weak construction. By replacing the weak verbs with strong verbs, we strengthened the sentences while keeping them in active voice.

See the difference between passive voice and weak verbs?

What made me begin to question the concept of passive voice (because I had been taught the incorrect way to identify passive voice and generalized "be" verbs as always passive) was judging entries for my local RWA chapter's annual contest. As I pointed out what I thought was passive voice in some of those entries, I began to question whether I was right. I don't know what it was, but something didn't make sense. So, I began to dig for more details about passive voice, and stumbled upon Paula LaRocque's book, The Book on Writing, where she clearly differentiates between passive voice and weak verb usage. A-ha! That's when I realized I had been taught wrong.

Weak verb usage does not necessarily mean passive voice. This is important to me, because as I continue to judge and critique others' work, I want to make sure I'm providing quality, concise feedback that not only helps but teaches. And I can't do that if I'm not using proper terminology. There is a difference between telling someone their writing is passive vs. weak. A big difference. And while "be" verbs may not always indicate passive voice, they usually indicate generally weak writing that can be improved with stronger, more precise verbs.

Oh, and don't forget: There is a place for passive voice and weaker verbs. You can't completely eliminate both, and you shouldn't. But you should certainly watch out for both and eliminate them when you can, and when it's appropriate.

Happy Writing